Emil Sieg: Tocharologica. Selected Writings on Tocharian.

Author:Hitch, Doug
Position:Book review
 
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Emil Sieg: Tocharologica. Selected Writings on Tocharian. Edited and introduced by Georges-Jean Pinault and Michael Peyrot. Monographien zur Indischen Archaologie, Kunst und Philologie, vol. 22. Bremen: Hempen, 2014. Pp. xx + 294, 3 plates. $70.

That this book, a collection of writings related to Tocharian by Emil Sieg (1866-1951), should appear more than sixty years after his death underscores the continuing value of his work. Sieg was the undisputed master of Tocharian studies for more than four decades. As the editors Pinault and Peyrot note, serious students of Tocharian have collected or will over time probably accumulate photocopies of all of these materials. The biggest criticism of the volume may be that it did not appear two generations ago. But the delay has the benefit that we now have the useful introduction, concordance, and indices provided by the two insightful editors, who have both invested much energy in all things related to Sieg and Tocharology.

Sieg was a first-rate Indologist. His dissertation was on Vedic phonology and his Habilitationsschrift was on late Vedic exegeses of the Rgveda. He had been teaching Sanskrit in Berlin for a number of years when in 1906 Richard Pischel asked Sieg and Sieg's student Wilhelm Siegling (1880-1946) to work on the manuscripts collected by the then two German Turfan Expeditions (1902-1903, 1904-1905; there would later be two more, 1905-1907, 1913-1914). The collection contained a wide variety of documents in numerous languages and several scripts, including a large number in Brahmi in an unknown language or languages.

The recruitment of the two scholars turned out to be spectacularly fruitful. Sieg quickly produced two studies on Sanskrit grammatical works. Then in 1908, just two years after beginning work on the Turfan materials, Sieg and Siegling published their decipherment of two of the unknown languages. Their pioneering work, "Tocharisch, die Sprache der Indoskythen" (pp. 1-23), is a masterwork of scholarship. In its few pages it contains an analysis of the peculiarities of the script as well as an overview of the grammar and a transliterated folio of the Maitreyasamiti-Nataka. Sieg and Siegling had ascertained that the Turfan documents contained two related languages, still today called by their "vorlaufig" (p. 3) designations A and B. An earth-shattering result of their research was that A and B were Indo-European languages, representing a previously unknown branch of the...

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